Paul George’s desire to return home and play for the Los Angeles Lakers is the NBA’s worst-kept secret in quite some time. At this point, the marriage feels less of a matter of if, and more of a question of when.
Reports have surfaced from numerous sources that George is “hell-bent” on being the next Lakers star after Kobe Bryant and the team — well, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson -- has made it obvious that the interest is mutual. Johnson made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live and when asked about what he would say to the Indiana Pacers all-star if they ran into each other this summer, all the winks in the world couldn’t hide that signature Magic smile.
Johnson’s answer certainly danced ever so close to the lines of tampering, which is prohibited by the league even though it certainly goes on behind closed doors, which the previous regime for the Lakers supposedly did not take advantage of. Because of his answer to Kimmel, Pacers fans are certainly mad online about their franchise player wanting to become a Laker.
That might be the extent of the repercussions when it is all said and done, though. Nate Taylor of the Indy Star reports that it is unlikely the Lakers will be slapped with tampering charges because of Johnson’s appearance on the show and that as of Monday afternoon, the Pacers had not contacted the league on the matter. He also added that if the league penalized the Lakers at all, it would just be a warning.
Taylor also brought up the timing of Johnson’s tweet that was posted right after the news broke of George notifying the Pacers that he will not re-sign with them next summer and that his preference is to play for the Lakers.
God is so good!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 18, 2017
What people fail to realize is that the tweet above was part of a series of tweets from Johnson talking about Father’s Day and the gift he had received for it. Had the tweet been alone that day, maybe there would be some legitimacy to the idea of it referring to the George news. But the two tweets preceding and the one following it would suggest otherwise.
Look, the frustration of Pacers fans is completely understandable. One of their franchise’s greatest players will not return and it really sucks for them because it means a rebuild is on the horizon. Lakers fans have learned in recent years how tough that can be.
But the cries for tampering are laughable, coming from a fan base that has desperately clung to the idea of free agent Gordon Hayward “coming home” to Indianapolis this summer where he played college basketball at Butler University. Sound a bit familiar?
Sure, there was bad luck along the way. George suffered a gruesome leg injury during his time with Team USA that cost him an entire season. Before that, the team was built for a deep playoff run, but kept running into the LeBron James-led Miami Heat and could never get over the hump. It’s all unfortunate for them, but crying out for tampering charges isn’t going to dig your favorite team out of the hole they put themselves in.
Although it looks extremely promising right now, George ending up with the Lakers is still far from a certainty. Plenty of work on that front needs to be done. But if it does, don’t blame him or the Lakers for being in the right position at the right time. Blame the Pacers for failing to continue surrounding a franchise player with adequate talent to be a serious threat in the Eastern Conference. After all, insanity is repeatedly doing the same things and expecting different results.
Maybe Paul George just happens to not be insane.